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Busy World War II veteran celebrates Fourth in Wyomissing

World War II veteran Charlie Brooking is a busy guy at age 97.

The Luzerne County man took part in Thursday’s Fourth of July parade in Wyomissing.

But the trek to Berks County for Independence Day is nothing compared to the one he made last month when he visited the beaches of Normandy, France, for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

World War II veteran Charlie Brooking, 97, of Luzerne County during his trip to Normandy, France, for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
World War II veteran Charlie Brooking, 97, of Luzerne County during his trip to Normandy, France, for the 80th anniversary of D-Day. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

“It almost brought tears to your eyes to be at all the beaches. You could almost visualize what was going on when they came ashore on D-Day,” Brooking recalled last week during a “Charlie Brooking Day” event in Columbia County at the Berwick Theatre and Center for Community Arts.

The theater hosted Brooking as its special guest before a showing of the 1963 film “PT 109” about the sinking of future President John F. Kennedy’s patrol torpedo boat when he was a Navy officer in World War II.

Brooking, a Bloomsburg native, served as a gunner’s mate manning a .50-caliber machine gun on a PT boat in the Pacific Theater and helped search for Kennedy and his crew.

During his day in Berwick, Brooking wore his original Navy uniform and sat at a table with his old military photos along with memorabilia and photos from his visit to Normandy. He proudly held up canisters of sand he took from Omaha and Utah beaches.

“They gave us empty jars and when we were at the beaches we filled them up with sand,” Brooking recalled.

Brooking traveled to Normandy with about 60 other World War II veterans from across the country on a trip sponsored by American Airlines.

He met Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and the two spoke for about a half-hour. Del Toro gave Brooking a Navy challenge coin.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Brooking said. “The people in France, they loved us. There were American flags everywhere you went.”

Brooking joined the Navy in 1943 as a 17-year-old. After the war, he temporarily lived in California, then returned home to Bloomsburg, where he married his wife, Ruth Dorothy, better known as “Dottie.”

They both worked at Henrie’s Printing in Bloomsburg and operated a restaurant in town for many years simply called Sandwich Shop.

“We were married for 70 years, seven months and 12 days,” Brooking said. “I lost her in 2019 on Mother’s Day.”

After his wife died, Brooking moved in with his daughter-in-law, Christine Grendzinski, in the Pond Hill section of Conyngham Township.

Grendzinski, an Army veteran of Operation Desert Storm, joined him for last week’s “Charlie Brooking Day” in Berwick.

“I think it’s wonderful. It’s a great honor for him,” Grendzinski said. “It was supposed to be a surprise, but he read about it in the paper that they were going to have a day for him.”

Columbia County Commissioner Dave Kovach was among those who helped organize the honor to Brooking.

“We are just honored to be able to have an American hero with us,” Kovach said.

Brooking took part in Wyomissing’s July Fourth parade following a relationship he’s developed with Tyler Boland, 20, of Sinking Spring, an Albright College student whose Keeping History Alive project collects histories from veterans and raises awareness of their stories.

Brooking said he’s happy to attend.

“The Fourth of July is more than fireworks,” Brooking said. “It’s a day for people to show their patriotism and be thankful to be an American.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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